The View From Afar: Fans in the United States may be more engaged in international sports, but the interest goes both ways


Another soccer World Cup has come and gone, and the event again demonstrated the increasing willingness of American sports fans to be drawn into what the rest of the world was watching. But Americans may not be as keenly aware that the inverse is also occurring: The global sports community has a growing appetite for our professional sports competitions. As I have watched some of our domestic championship events (in which we dumbfound the rest of the world by crowning a “world” champion) from various ports of call over the last few years, the perspective has been interesting.

I watched Game 7 of the 2011 “World” Series from the site of the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Game 5 that year in a hotel bar in Auckland, New Zealand. I watched the 2011 NBA Finals in the wee hours of the morning from Istanbul, a place with a significant basketball fan base. And I watched the NHL Stanley Cup finals in 2013 from a sports bar in Port of Spain, Trinidad, not a place known for its ice rinks. At each venue, I was not only pleasantly surprised to see that these events were available on television, but that they were followed by a healthy local fan base with substantial knowledge of the games, teams and competitions. (And this, of course, is leaving aside online live streaming and other outlets for those games.) Thus, I am pleased to report from my very informal survey that the United States does not appear to have a trade deficit when it comes to sports. The level of global interest in our sports is at least as high as our current—and certainly better than our historical—engagement in global sports.

Originally published in SportsTravel Magazine - August 2014.

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